Are Fantasy Books Fiction?
This is a common query that new fantasy readers have when they are initially getting into the genre. I remember asking myself this same question after perusing the fantasy genre section for the first time.
This article will determine whether or not fantasy books qualify as fiction with concrete, easy-to-follow reasoning.
Fantasy books are classified as fiction. Fiction is literature that details imaginary developments and characters. The fantasy genre is based on imaginary, theoretical events that involve magical or supernatural components. Thus, fantasy books precisely fit the criteria to qualify as fiction.
The answer above is the simple, concise answer to the question of are fantasy books fiction. Below, we will be analyzing the specifics as to how each literary aspect of fantasy individually suits the criteria for fiction.
Definition of Fiction
To identify whether or not fantasy passes as fiction, we must first define what it means to be a fiction book and what it means to be a fantasy book.
There are many ways that authors phrase the definition of fiction. The precise definition of fiction that we will be referencing throughout this article is given below.
Fiction is defined as literature that depicts unreal events and people which originate from the imagination of the author.
Now that fiction has been explicitly defined, we can now focus our full attention on defining fantasy.
Definition of Fantasy
Like fiction, each author has specific phrasing that they like to use when defining fantasy. The following definition of fantasy is what we will be alluding to for the entirety of this article.
The fantasy genre is defined as a genre of speculative fiction that includes magical, supernatural elements in the story.
These definitions will help us to establish a clear, solid connection between fiction and fantasy from now on.
How Fantasy Plots are Considered Fiction
In non-fiction narratives, the plots have a solid basis in reality. They are simple, tangible stories that occurred in the past. Books that primarily feature non-fiction events are simply reiterating historical or biographical facts to the reader.
In contrast, fictional narratives have no solid basis in reality. The overarching plot of fiction never actually happened in the real world. The author makes up the events that are occurring.
Fantasy plots are labeled as fiction because these storylines did not take place in the real world. The plot of a fantasy book is founded on the creative aptitude of the author.
Although the plot may incorporate affairs that draw inspiration from real-world events, the storyline is entirely invented. The details of the narrative are mere figments of human imagination.
An example of the fictional nature of fantasy plots is seen in a book I recently reviewed titled Fire and Blood by George R.R. Martin. The plot of multiple kingdoms warring over control over all of the lands of Westeros seems believable. However real this plot appears to be, it is not.
George R.R. Martin admittedly wrote specific passages by drawing inspiration from real medieval history. However, this inspiration does not change the fact that every single event in Fire and Blood is imaginary.
In summary, no matter how convincing a fantasy story may seem, none of the events take place in reality, so the fantasy plot is considered fiction.
How Fantasy Characters are Considered Fiction
Non-fiction stories depict real-life people that existed on planet earth at some point in time. The portrayals of their behavior, actions, and thoughts are sincere.
Fictional narratives headline made-up characters. Their lives never genuinely occurred in the real universe. These people never physically walked the earth and never will.
The characters of fantasy books are also made-up. All of the events in their lives exist only on paper. These characters were sketched out in the psyche of some artistic writer and then brought to the real world through books.
Again, these characters may resemble historical figures or celebrities. This does not change the fact that these fantasy personas were never real. The nature of these fantasy characters is entirely fictional.
A prime instance of the fictional nature of fantasy characters is seen in Kip from one of my personal favorite fantasy series, The Lightbringer by Brent Weeks.
Kip’s self-deprecating thoughts and emotions seem entirely real, invoking a sense of palpable empathy with the reader. In addition, the bitter hardships he experiences are described in such detail that the reader can mentally visualize his life journey.
Despite these real emotions that the reader feels, the narrative of Kip is all just a clever illusion. Nothing about Kip is real. His behavior, actions, thoughts, and emotions are all made up, so he is considered a fictional character.
How Fantasy Dialogue is Considered Fiction
Stories that revolve around non-fiction experiences describe conversational exchanges that transpired between real people. Of course, some of these exchanges may be paraphrased rather than recounted word for word. Nonetheless, these interactions truly unfolded.
In fiction, the dialogue is all ad-libbed. The characters are unreal, so their conversations are fictional as well.
This same concept applies to the fantasy genre. As we already established, fantasy characters are entirely imaginary. Therefore, the social dialogue between these fantasy characters is imaginary by default.
Take The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch, for instance. In this fantasy novel, the sarcastic banter between the two primary protagonists, Jean and Locke, is genuine enough to make a reader feel right at home.
Their social interactions mimic the casual dialogue of real life in terms of the constant ribbing and joking between friends. Do not confuse the homey essence of their dialogue as fact.
Their conversations may seem real, but they are not. Again, just like the nature of fantasy plots and characters, fantasy dialogue is completely fictional.
How (Sometimes) Fantasy Settings are Considered Fiction
The settings in non-fiction novels are undeniable locations in the universe. These locations physically exist at the present moment or existed at some point in history.
You can probably see a trend forming here. Fictional settings, on the other hand, are constructed from scratch. These settings do not refer to real, concrete places. Their existence lies solely in the mind of the reader.
Fantasy narratives do not always incorporate fictional settings. Sometimes, fantasy storylines take place in real places in the world.
Thus, fantasy settings are not always a reliable marker for proving the fictional nature of a fantasy work. Instead, the plot, characters, and dialogue of fantasy works are far more reliable indicators of fiction relative to the setting.
When a fantasy setting is involved in a narrative, the fictional elements of the setting are usually highly apparent. One prominent example of this phenomenon is seen in The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss.
The Name of the Wind features a vast, medieval world with diverse cultures and societies. The fictional essence of the world is seen on numerous occasions throughout the story.
For example, a large chunk of the narrative is set in an academic magical institution where students learn how to hone their supernatural capabilities. The imaginary entities are everywhere, from magically lit torches to supernatural charms.
All in all, these unreal elements of the setting provide clear evidence supporting fantasy books as fiction.
What Type of Fiction is Fantasy Considered?
Fantasy is considered a speculative type of fiction. This subtype of fiction generally encompasses unreal elements such as the supernatural or futuristic technologies.
Fiction regularly takes one of three forms: short stories, novellas, or novels.
Short fictional stories lie anywhere in the realm of 1,000 to 20,000 words. Short stories are much more straightforward in terms of overall plot and characterization.
Fictional novellas are considered mid-tier in terms of length, ranging from 20,000 to 50,000 words.
Fiction novels are the most complex of the three types. The length of these fictional works is upwards of 50,000 words. The story involves multiple moving parts, reinforcing several sophisticated themes through intricate plot events and dialogue.
The beauty of fantasy is that it can take any one of these three forms. The freedom and versatility of fantasy leave the choice of fictional form up to the author.
If an author wants to write a fantasy short story, they can write a fantasy short story. If they have a specific enthusiasm to write a lengthy fantasy novel, they can do just that.
Are There Any Special Cases Where a Fantasy Story Is Not Considered Fiction?
The short answer is no. There are not no exceptions where a fantasy narrative is not classified as fiction.
Fantasy is inherently labeled as fiction because it involves breaking the natural laws governing the universe. The fantasy genre lies outside the bounds of reality.
Thus, no fantasy story can be written as a factual event. It is physically impossible.
Why It Matters
So now you are probably asking yourself why you should even bother with this information.
Well, for one…
Identifying fantasy books as fiction will assist you in determining your reading interests in the future.
Say, hypothetically, that you have a craving for fantasy at the moment. Well, who knows for sure how long this lust for fantasy will last? In the coming months, you may burn yourself out with fantasy and have a desire to explore other reading options.
Knowing that the fantasy genre falls under the broader category of fiction, you will have a critical lead on where to start looking for your next reading adventure.
Branching out into other fictional reading genres may open you up to a unique reading passion you never knew you had. Romance, thriller, action-adventure, mystery… you name it!
Without fiction as the guiding hand, such passionate epiphanies may not be possible.
Furthermore, knowing fantasy books fall under the umbrella of fiction is just one of those fundamental tenets that readers ought to know.
These fundamental facts will not make or break your fantasy reading experience. Nonetheless, fundamental facts such as this one will help to satisfy your curiosities regarding the fantasy genre, strengthening your foundational knowledge of fantasy as a whole.
Not to mention this little tidbit of information may save you some friendly jibes from other fantasy readers.